BEST OF 2014: 30-21

Alraune cover30. ALRAUNE, “The Process of Self-Immolation” (Profound Lore/Gilead Media): One of my fondest memories from over the summer is running leisurely thorough Oshkosh, Wisc., on my way to the Masonic Center in order to catch Alraune’s scorching set on time at Gilead Media Fest. I barely made it, coated with sweat, but it was all worth seeing these Nashville crushers tear off faces with tracks from their debut album “The Process of Self-Immolation.” Formed with members of Yautja and Vesicus and being massive enough that two damn labels had to unleash this thing into the world, the band made good for all that coverage with a flattening, exciting, smothering five-track debut that runs nearly 40 minutes. And every one of those minutes is packed with power and intrigue, proving it’s possible to stay true to black metal’s roots but also add the right modern flourishes to keep things nasty. One of this year’s most recommended debuts, at least from our standpoint. (Released June 24)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/ALRAUNE/132403286836721

To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

Or here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/store/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

And here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/

tp0004c_SP_DPGate_Cover29. EARTH, “Primitive and Deadly” (Southern Lord): After releasing some, well, earthy, Americana-emblazoned albums in “The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull” and the dual “Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light” releases, long-running doom-drone pioneers Earth returned with one of their most surprising records to date. From the opening strains of “Torn By the Fox of the Crescent Moon,” you can feel things are nastier and more dangerous. Another compelling decision was to bring in guest vocalists in the rugged, always reliable Mark Lanegan and Rabi Shabeen Qazi (Rose Windows) to add even more depth to Dylan Carlson’s immortal riffs. It’s a daring mission for sure, but one that is rewarding and stunning from the first visit onto the umpteenth time I listened to this thing. No wonder this band has such legendary status. They absolutely earn it every time out. (Released Sept. 1)

For more on the band, go here: http://www.thronesanddominions.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://southernlord.com/store

For more on the label, go here: http://southernlord.com/

Lotus Thief cover28. LOTUS THIEF, “Rervm” (Svart): The debut from Lotus Thief—a union of Bezaelith and Otrebor, who play together in Botanist—is more rock than metal. But it certainly has its heaviness and can fill an arena, if the need arises. This great, emotionally cascading album, based on the writings of 1st Century Roman poet and philosopher Titus Lucretius Carus, is an intense, cosmically adventurous record that needs to be heard for full understanding. I don’t mean that just from a context standpoint; you need to live and breathe inside of these tracks to appreciate their gravity and fullness. Bezaelith’s guitars and vocals absolutely soar into the stratosphere, while Otrebor keeps the rhythm moving and pummeling, as the duo retells “De Rerum Natura” in all its glory. The messages from two centuries ago still apply today, and the music Lotus Thief create can fill you with electricity and understanding.  (Released Nov. 28)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/LotusThief

To buy the album, go here: http://svartrecords.com/shoppe/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.svartrecords.com/

Fen cover27. FEN, “Carrion Skies” (Code 666): As I noted when I reviewed “Carrion Skies,” there are certain types of music practically tailor made for specific times of the year. Fen’s latest, dropping in late November, was perfect timing, as this atmospheric black metal goes ideally with cold streams, chilly breezes, the first strains of flurries dashing across the skies, and the leaves crunching under your boots. What groups like Agalloch always have done so well has spilled over into this band’s camp, and you feel like you’re in the midst of nature on cuts such as the stunning two-part “Our Name Written in Embers” openers, “The Dying Stars,” and spectacular closer “Gathering the Stones.” This record hasn’t gotten a ton of traction in America quite yet. But once it does, it’s sure to find favor with metal fans across the board, especially the ones whose hearts lie in the Pacific Northwest. (Released Nov. 22)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/fenofficial

To buy the record, go here: http://www.auralwebstore.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.code666.net/

??????????????????????????????????????????????????26. ANGUISH, “Mountain” (Dark Descent): Having a great, character-spewing vocalist can make a decent band much better. It also can make a really great group superb, such as in the case of Swedish doom mongers Anguish. On the band’s second full-length “Mountain,” singer J. Dee (whose voice is more a monstrous lurch than a deathly growl) continues to weave weird, cosmic tales, dark imagery, and other strange ideas into this compelling eight-track, 49-minute album. Building on what the band started on 2012’s “Through the Archdemon’s Head,” Anguish often balance their heaviness with bizarre transmissions and songs that perplex as much as they punish. They’re one of the most unique bands in doom metal, one that certainly sticks out in a huge crowd, and “Mountain” cements Anguish as a monster you’ll want to follow as much as fear. (Released Nov. 12)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Anguish/175400599142558

To buy the album, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/store

For more on the label, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/

Thantifaxath25. THANTIFAXATH, “Sacred White Noise” (Dark Descent): Mysterious, cloaked black metal band Thantifaxath aren’t the first to shroud their identities in mystery. But they’re definitely one of the scariest. The band’s sweltering debut record “Sacred White Noise” is a ferocious, foundation-crushing display of strange messages, punishing playing, and unforgiving power. It’s also challenging. They’re not terribly interested in walking the straight-and-narrow black metal path, instead taking unexpected twists and turns into places you don’t expect in order to jar you awake. So good luck wrapping your brain around monsters such as “The Bright White Nothing at the End of the Tunnel,” eerie “Where I End and the Hemlock Begins,” and suffocating closer “Lost in Static Between Worlds,” that’ll practically erase your brain. That or you’ll be whipped into a psychotic vortex no amount of drugs ever could hope to treat. (Released April 15)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Thantifaxath/1428008470822146

To buy the album, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/store

For more on the label, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/

12inch_gatefold_v92012.indd24. THE OATH, self-titled (Rise Above): The most disheartening thing about The Oath’s mesmerizing debut album is, before it even hit the damn shelves, the band has dissolved. That’s a huge shame, because this union of vocalist Johanna Sadonis (she has since moved on to Lucifer) and guitarist Linnea Olsson absolutely nailed the vintage heavy metal and doom sound like no other. This record is haunting, catchy, and impossible to remove from your head, with killer cuts including “All Must Die,” “Night Child,” “Black Rainbow,” and “Psalm 9” piling on top of each other. It’s actually depressing to think how good this band could have become if they had stuck together, but at least we have this magnificent document of retro metal power to hold in our hands and cherish forever (or at least until the grooves in our vinyl wear out).  (Released March 17)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/THEOATHOFFICIAL

To buy the album, go here: http://www.riseaboverecords.com/store/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.riseaboverecords.com/

YAITW cover23. YAITW, “When Life Comes to Death” (Deathwish Inc.): Just one look at the cover of Young and in the Way’s new album “When Life Comes to Death” should clue to you on what’s ahead. Namely, you get black metal violence dashed with hardcore, songs that are bereft of mercy and compassion, and a stunning assault that catapulted the band into more people’s minds. And again, damn, that cover! Is that ever an intimidating symbol when most bands are prone to slapping strange paintings and an artist’s vision of hell on the cover? But beyond that, the music is what matters, and this is blistering, harsh, fierce chaos highlighted by tracks such as “Fuck This Life,” “Be My Blood,” “We Are Nothing,” and shadowy, nearly 10-minute closer “Embrace Extinction.” Get ready to get hurt. (Released May 27)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/yaitw

To buy the album, go here: http://store.deathwishinc.com/category/new.html

For more on the label, go here: http://www.deathwishinc.com/

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????22. KRIEG, “Transient” (Candlelight): It’s been a pretty prolific year for Neill Jameson and Krieg, what with the myriad split and smaller releases emblazoned with the band’s name as well as the crushing new full-length effort “Transient.” This seventh record finds Jameson teaming up with members of Esoterica to pump out one of the most thought-provoking albums of the band’s run. Working with themes including where one calls him or her dwelling place (the spoken word/cosmic zaps/acoustic piece “Home” hammers that one to the heart) and creating some of the most colorful music of Krieg’s run, this record is packed with mashers from front to back, including opener “Order of the Solitary Road,” “To Speak With Ghosts,” and “Gospel Hand.” Throw into that damn good cover of Amebix’s “Winter,” and you have one of the best all-around releases of Krieg’s storied run. (Released Sept. 2)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/officialkrieg

To buy the album, go here: https://www.manicmusiconline.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.candlelightrecordsusa.com/

GD30OB2-N.cdr21. NIHILL, “Verderf” (Burning World): We talk a lot about albums being terrifying or the manifestation of horrors, and sure, that dips damn close to hyperbole on a lot of occasions. But when talking the fourth record from Dutch beasts Nihill, those descriptions might not go far enough. This band sounds positively scary and hellish on their records, and their live performances only amplify that incredible fog of darkness that contains monsters here to maim you. This late-year arrival didn’t get nearly the amount of attention it deserves, probably because a lot of writers cooled their jets on new stuff in November. But “Verderf” is suffocating, abysmally dark, and one of the truly scary black metal platters of the entire year. It never relents, and you start to wonder if the band isn’t trying to psychologically scar you from afar. Go get this beast and immediately take cover. (Released Dec. 1)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/nihillofficial

To buy the album or for more on the label, go here: http://burningworldrecords.com/

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